Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Pneumatic shoes

An old trick of surgical shoe makers to help accommodate the foot in a shoe was to place approximately 6mm thick padding on the under surface of the tongue of the shoe. In 1989 Reebok took the simple principle and incorporated into a high top basketball boot. The manually operated inflator encased the foot within the shoe, or so the theory went. One particular drawback to the original Reebok Pump was the pump could be inflated until it burst releasing less than environmentally friendly chemicals into the atmosphere. The original Reebok Pump was quickly withdrawn and back to the drawing board for the designers of pneumatic footwear.

Another pneumatic shoe from the same manufacturer was the ATR Pump performance basketball shoe. The ATR Pump was inflated manually by pumping the ball located on the outer ankle area of the shoe. The shoe can be inflated until it reached the athlete’s perfect custom fit. Subsequently, the pressure could be released to loosen the fit as the valve was held down. The ATR Pump also featured a herringbone, high abrasion outsole for traction and durability, a sculpted, ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole for lightweight pressure relief and ankle strap closure for support.

The second generation Reebok Pump , i.e. Pump 2.0 came two years later but unlike the original Pump, the new shoe had an air chamber located in the heel which automatically inflated after a few steps to mould the shoe to the feet. There was a "smart valve" located on the upper heel of the shoe which was designed to never allow inflation beyond 5 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure. This pressure was considered to be an optimal pressure point when a form fitting custom fit was required. The technology used by Reebok was created by NASA and MIT-trained engineers. According to the company the Pump 2.0 provided the wearer with an optimised fit for all foot shapes by simply inflating the chamber. The pneumatic shoe circumvented the need for laces and the shoe incorporated DMX Shear cushioning technology which according to the manufacturer, provided horizontal cushioning to help lessen and distribute the stress of runner’s heel strike. To remove the Pump 2.0, the athlete simply pressed the "smart valve." which released air to loosen the shoe.

(Video Courtesy: CrashFortress2 by Youtube Channel)

More information

Rossen J (2015) Adjusted for Inflation: A History of the Reebok Pump Reviewed 11/12/2018.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Jim Dine and shoes

James Dine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1935. His family owned a hardware store, and young Dine grow up with an unique appreciation of the power of ordinary objects. Dine studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and at Ohio University, then he moved to New York City in 1958. He became fascinated with ordinary objects and later created combinations of familiar 3 dimensional items with painted canvas. He was not overly-concerned with shoes, but used them to make clear statements. At first, he began attaching objects, particularly tools of autobiographical significance, to his canvases, and his Shoes Walking on My Brain (1960), was a childlike painting of a face with a pair of leather shoes fixed to the forehead. As an artist, he did not identify with a specific movement, although he is often associated with Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. He generally regards his work as Neo-Dada art, questioning the power of iconic symbols, rather than a more simplistic celebration of them. In this way he emphasized the exploration of everyday life and the objects chosen and used in daily life.

(Video Courtesy: Educational Video Library by Youtube Channel)

In New York he became part of a group of artists who initiated Happenings, an early form of performance art. "Happenings," was their attempt to challenge the seriousness and elitism of Abstract Expressionism. Chaotic performance art, starkly contrasted with the sombre mood of the conventional New York art world. Dine and his fellow artists, Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow, in conjunction with musician John Cage, pioneered the first Happening in 1959.

(Video Courtesy: StateoftheArtsNJ by Youtube Channel)

Realising most of his artworks bore some sort of memory representation, he underwent psychoanalysis in 1962, to discover his own mentality, by exploring his memories and identity.

Dine ignored the trend to use abstract items otherwise devoid of expression or feeling in his compositions. Instead, shoes and other items of clothing were more personal to the artist and he incorporated them into his paintings and sculptures as extensions of and metaphors for the human body. He would often return to the same theme in later works.

Dine's work was included in the first "Pop Art" exhibitions in America in 1962, at the New Painting of Common Objects, at the Norton Simon Museum; and again at the International Exhibition of the New Realists, at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, in the same year. The shows also included works from Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Thiebaud. These and other contemporary defined the Pop Art movement and fundamentally altered the nature of modern art.

In 1965, Dine's works were exhibited at the Robert Fraser Gallery in London.

Walking dream with a four-foot clamp was produced in 1965 in Dine’s temporary studio at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. It comprised of three rectangular canvases across which are shown nineteen pale pink ladies’ legs. The legs are sketched in charcoal and on the left-hand and central canvases all point towards the left as though moving in that direction. On the right-hand canvas the legs point in the opposite direction, apart from the only ‘pair’ in the painting, which is seen from the front at the very end of the line and appears stationary. All of the feet are clad in pointed, black heeled shoes, and most of the legs are shown up to mid-thigh height, the level that a 1960s mini-skirt might reach, while pieces of material resembling skirts or trousers are suggested by pencil lines in the grey section above and behind the thighs. The painting contains the shadow of a spanner, a autobiographical signature of the artist and often thought of as a phallic symbol. A clamp is attached to this middle section and a spanner is fixed to the clamp as though the process of assembling the structure might be ongoing. It was first exhibited in 1965 at the Robert Fraser Gallery in London.

In London, he became influenced by fashion and identity and produced ‘Mr Tuxedo makes an impression mismatch of shoes.’ Then later, 'British Joy a picture of Mary Quant.'

The fashion for high boots saw the artist saw the artist working in, poster, paint and sculpture medium, all in 1965. came the poster Two Red Boots on a Black Background, Boot Silhouettes , and Shoe with black cherry.

In 1966, police raided the exhibition at Robert Fraser's gallery in London, England. However, his works were not considered obscene but classified as indecent. The following year, Dine moved to London.

He moved back to the US in the early 70s and largely focused on a series of drawings. His exploitation of nuances of line and texture is especially evident in his images of flowers and portraits of his wife. Sometimes he used the iconic forms of shoes and repeated them over and over in an attempt to create meaning. Silhouette Black Boots on Brown Paper (1972) was a lithograph on brown paper .

In the 80s, his sculptural works remained central to his practice and he produced several pieces which featured shoes.

By the next century, Dine was using an alter ego in the form of the animated puppet Pinocchio. He presented the character in several forms, working on a commercial book, paintings, and sculptures, of which the most recognizable one is the nine-meter high bronze statue, titled Walking to Borås, in 2008. There are two giant sculpture of a walking Pinocchio one in Borås, Sweden, and the other at the entrance of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Now in his eighties, Jim Dine is still active and during his working life, his work has been the subject of almost 300 solo exhibitions across the world. The master in a variety of media ranging from painting, mixed media, and drawing to photography, printmaking, sculptural work and book illustration, has always had time for shoes.

Sandals of Antiquity

When it came to sandals the ancient Greeks were preoccupied with elegance and grace whereas the Romans were far more pragmatic. Conquering legions wore hobnailed clavata, an Estruscan innovation, which allowed the spreading empire to grow and introduce sandal making to the conquered. Something the Italians have been very good at, ever since.

To celebrate a victorious return to Rome, heroes replaced the bronze nails, which held together their military sandals (caligae) with gold or silver tacks. Colour became the distinguishing feature of social status and critical factor for the glitterati. Red was the colour for high magistrates but later became the Emperor's prerogative. From time to time fancy sandals were banned because they offended Caesar’s favour.

Claudius II (AD 37-68) was a spendthrift better known as Nero and wore silver soled shoes. His is wife Poppaea had sandals made from poured gold with straps encrusted with rare stones. The effect was dazzling and undeniably sexy. Nero’s indulgencies however brought the empire to the brink of bankruptcy. To save the day he decreed all coins would be forged in base metals and commanded citizens return their old gold and silver coinage to his treasury. Not surprisingly citizens began hoarding but had a weakness for ostentatious footwear. Shoemakers were quick to cash in and would only accept real money. Customers had to trust the shoemaker not to dob them in and consequently shoe making became clandestine with expensive footwear being sold under the counter. Deliveries took place under the cover of night and may in part explain why shoemakers gained a reputation as untrustworthy.

Emperor Heliogabalus (AD 218-222) preferred his shoes decorated with diamonds and other precious stones engraved by the finest artists. He was never seen in the same boots twice but took great exception to patricians wearing ornamented shoes and tried unsuccessfully to stop the fashion.

Emporer Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (AD 270 - 275) was more concerned about men’s shoes and forbade them from wearing red, yellow and green shoes. He did however relent and allowed patricians to choose materials and colours freely. Caesar reserved red and purple for himself and his sons.

Although sumptuary laws and price controls were later imposed by Gaius Valerius Diocletianus (AD 245-313), in AD 301 footwear came in many styles and colours each reflecting class distinctions. The fall of Roman Empire almost saw the end to sandal making but the craft survived and enjoyed a real renaissance in the early 20th century with the emerging Hollywood industries and the popularity of the Biblical epics.

Modern designers like Ferragamo rediscover the ancient designs and put them well and truly on track for today’s fashion conscious.

Reviewed 10/12/2018

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Podiatry: The French Connection

Care of the feet as we understand it today (podiatry) was first described by Laurance Laforest who wrote L'Art de Soigner les Pieds (1781). He was the podiatrist to Louis XVI., but after the Revolution, changed his occupation to grocer. History does not reveal why the change in career, but I am sure his customers would be relieved to know he washed his hands regularly.

The French Revolution (1789-99) violently transformed France from a monarchical state with a rigid social hierarchy into a modern nation in which the social structure was loosened and power passed increasingly to the middle classes. In the new France the proletariat mattered and their health and welfare of the Hoi polloi was of political importance. Up and until this time hospitals retained the image of a place for the poor, and most sick people of any means continued to choose to be treated at home. Hospitals were places to die in as opposed to the centres of medical excellence we know today.

The concept of the teaching hospital was introduced in France at this time and medical experts were employed to practice their art and teach others the science of medicine. Many major advances were made including microbiology by Paul-Joseph Barthez (1734-1806), and histology by French physiologist Marie Francois Bichat (1771-1802). These biological and medical discoveries led medicine to safer and less traumatic models of practice.

Specialist foot care was part of the new order after the Revolution and Laforest's work was eventually plagiarised by an English corn cutter called David Low. To avoid being found out he translated the original text into English and retitled it, Chiropodologia, Or, a Scientific Enquiry Into the Causes of Corns, Warts, Onions, and Other Painful or Offensive Cutaneous Excrescences: Confirmed by the Practice and Experience of D. Low. Hence the name, chiropodist. A decade later Low’s works was again plagiarised by North Americans. I suppose it was a classic case of the means justifying the ends. Eventually Low left corn cutting and started a new venture and became the first hotelier in history.

During the eighteenth century foot care was important to at least one Frenchman, Napoleon Bonaparte. Rising to command of the French Revolutionary armies, he seized political power as first consul in 1799 and proclaimed himself emperor in 1804. By repeated victories over various European coalitions, he extended French rule over much of Europe. His corn cutter, Monsieur Sagrada, was a constant companion on all his campaigns. When Bonaparte was eventually held captive on St Helena (1815–21) the British Authorities were unable to break the code of silence that surrounded his close circle of friends, They were imprisoned on a ship and with the promise of amnesty as an incentive they offered a new start in England to anyone able to jump ship. Yes, you have guessed it, the first to lay his foot on the ground was corn cutter Sagrada. After he told all he knew MonsieurSagrada was allowed to practice in Westminster, London for many years.

Emperor Napoleon was a doyen of fashion and had his servants break in his shoes before he would wear them. Empress Josephine was not much better and when she discovered a hole in her dancing slipper she complained to her shoemaker. "Ah, I see what the problem is, madame" he exclaimed "You have been walking in these"

Napoleon's sister, Princess Pauline Borghese, had exceptional feet and was so proud of them she held receptions in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome. These were known as the Toilette des pieds and guests came to admire her feet and observed her toiletry. On arrival Princess Pauline displayed her feet on a cushion for all to see and admire. Her maids would ceremoniously wash and powder the revered feet. An admirer of the princess and frequent witness to the ceremonial washing was once reported to admiring lift her foot and tuck it into his waistcoat saying, "it was like a little bird."

As if by irony Napoleon’s nemesis the Duke of Wellington detested corn cutters and his disdain extended to suing a London corn cutter for having the audacity to claim in the press that he was corn cutter to great man. Wellington also refused to have a general in his command who dared complain of sore feet.

I have always taken consolation that on that famous of historic moments when Napoleon said to his lover "Not tonight, Josephine" what history did not record was the end of the sentence "because I have a foot care appointment."

Runting EGV 1915 Jottings of an old chiro The Chiropodist 2:5 40.
Runting EGV 1932 Some phase of chiropody Chiropody Jottings London: Faber & Faber 210.

Reviewed 9/12/2018

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Gout and Pseudogout: The Cult of the Virgin Mary

Gout is the “disease of kings,” or so it was known because it was erroneously associated with of overindulgence in food and wine only the rich and powerful could afford. What is not in dispute is gout gives exquisite pain which renders the affected area untouchable.

In Victorian times the cartoon depictions of elderly gentleman in wheelchairs with one foot bound in a beehive bandage was a metaphor for aristocrats and their misspent youth. In truth many had syphilis but gout was also prevalent and eminently more acceptable as a reason to the prudish society.

Probably the most famous person to suffer gout was Henry VIII (although it is likely to have been syphilis) and the King of England wore Bearspaw shoes (Duck Bill shoes) to comfortably accommodate sore plus bandages.

The soft upper was slashed to further accommodate the bulk within. Slashing garments had become fashionable in the 16th century in part this was to display what lay beneath flaunting sumptuary laws which prevented the less privileged from sporting regal clothing as outerwear.

The slashed garments also had religious significance and were worn by secret societies that followed the Cult of the Virgin Mary. The slits symbolically represented the vulva, replacing the long toed shoe (phallus) which had been the prevailing style for the last four centuries.

Broad toed shoes as a fashion came to an end when Bloody Mary (daughter of Henry VIII) banned them by law. This is thought to have been a gesture to the Pope when Mary became a catholic.

Back to gout, suffrage became a figure of fun suffice gout sufferers received little sympathy which is quite unmerited. The condition occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints due to elevated blood level of uric acid (hyperuricemia). Uric acid is a normal waste product of the body which is passed out through urine but when the liver produces more uric acid than the body can excrete in the urine, or when a diet high in rich foods (e.g., red meat, cream sauces, red wine) produces more uric acid than the kidneys can filter from the blood then serum uric acid levels increase.

As uric acid in the blood crystallizes and monosodium urates crystals lodge in the joint spaces this causes swelling, inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Gout usually affects the first metatarsal phalangeal joint of the big toe (hallux) or the ankle joints. Symptoms are exquisite pain. The condition is more common in men between the ages of 40 and 50. In women the incidence increases after menopause and it is very rare in children and young adults. Many people who develop gout have a family history but other diseases may increase the risk. These include diabetes mellitus, obesity, kidney disease, and sickle cell anemia. Alcohol adversely interferes with the removal of uric acid from the body as can other factors including, a purine rich diet (e.g., cream sauces, red meat, sardines, liver, scallops), medications which interfere with remove of uric acid from the body and exposure to lead in the environment. Demographic surveys indicate a significant rise in reported cases of gout.

Painful symptoms are often sudden and come on, overnight. The effected parts such as the great toe (unusual to have more than one joint involved) is swollen and tender with touching or moving the big toe intensely painful. Frequently gout sufferers will report extreme discomfort even from a bed sheet. If left untreated, gout can damage joints and cause osteoarthisis. People with gout have elevated blood levels of uric acid, but this condition may not always be present during an acute attack.

A simple set of tests and physical examination will confirm diagnosis. Treatment involves reducing the levels of uric acid in the joints and the physician may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to treat the pain. Until recently treatment for acute gout consisted of colchicine which was effective early in the attack. However, colchicine can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other side effects and now most physicians prefer to use anti-inflammatories. They too have side effects for some. Pharmaceutical care also depends on co-morbidities and polypharmacy. Small doses of NSAIDs, colchicine, or allopurinol may prevent continued accumulation of uric acid in the joints and further attacks. Avoiding alcohol and rich foods that are high in purine are also recommended to normalise blood uric acid levels. What works well for one person may not work as well for another, so decisions about when to start treatment and what drugs to use have to be tailored by the physician, and depend on kidney function and other factors. According to experts it is possible in almost all cases to successfully treat gout.

Pseudogout (calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease) is a type of arthritis where calcium crystals accumulate in joints capsules causing severe localised pain and swelling, similar to gout. Pseudogout is a condition which is often mistaken for gout and diagnosis is important if treatment is to be effective. The incidence of pseudo gout increases with age and diagnosis depends on analysis of the crystal found in affected joint. Treatment usually involves prescribed anti-inflammatory medications. Unlike gout which tends to affect the feet and ankle pseudogout affects the knees, wrists, shoulders, ankles, elbows or attacks can last for days or weeks. The cause of calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease remains unknown. The condition sometimes runs in families and hence genetic factors are suspected of contributing to the disorder. According to medical text severely underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), excess iron storage (hemochromatosis), an overactive parathyroid gland, and other causes of excessive calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia) may contribute to the development of pseudogout. In some people, attacks of pseudogout may develop following joint surgery or other surgery. Because many older people have calcium crystal deposits in their joints, any kind of insult to the joint can trigger the release of the calcium crystals, which then induce a painful inflammatory response. Unfortunately there is no treatment to dissolve the crystal deposits but symptoms may be relieved and the progress of the condition slowed down by small doses of prescribed anti-inflammatories.

If you think have any of the above symptoms then please consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.


Medline Plus
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse
The Arthritis Foundation

Reviewed 8/12/2018

Friday, December 07, 2018

Foot Fetishism: Men behaving badly?

What man is likely to complain to his doctor he gets an erection every time he sees a shoe? Not many and hence the reason why it is very difficult to estimate the number of shoe restifists (shoe fetishists) there are. There is a distinct difference between foot and shoe fetishists but for the purpose of today I have considered them together.

Restif de La Bretonne (1734-1806) revealed in his diaries he was a shoe voyer, stealer and collector. He also wrote extensively on the subject and became so linked to shoe worship, the fetish was called restifism.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist was affectionately known to his lover as "Mr Bigfoot", Christine Vulpius, documented von Goethe wrote her begging for her dancing shoes so he could have them to press against his heart.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French poet, dramatist, novelist enjoyed foot fetishism as did Feodor Mikkhailovich Dostoyevski (1821-1881) the Russian novelist.

Author of Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevski’s works were often preoccupied with guilt and religious faith.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) the Anglo-Irish poet and critic was reputed to be a celebrated foot fetishist and lived for sometime in Fitzroy Square, London overlooking the London Foot Hospital.

He coined the immortal words 'If you rebel against high heeled shoes, take care to do so in a very smart hat. '

US novelist F Scott Fitzgerald (1896- 1940) was a fellow foot fetishist and very attracted to female feet. He did however hate the sight of his own feet and tried never to let anyone see them naked.

Some men enjoy fantasies about being crushed and view women as enormous giants crushing insignificant men underfoot. Shoes provide tactile stimuli for women but although many women collect shoes seldom does their obsession parallel male fetishists who enjoy having sex with the shoe.

Reviewed 07/12/2018